“Wow!” “Fantastic!” “Amazing!” “What talent!” These are just some of the reactions people are having when they visit this exhibition at the Stephen Oliver Studio & Gallery in the Orchards Shopping Centre, Dartford.
The exhibition displays over 130 artworks by children and young adults on the autistic spectrum. The call went out to local schools and individuals to take part. The result is an exceptional range of work that is as diverse as the contributors. There are paintings, drawings, sculptures, collages – some small and intimate; some large and collaborative. Some are eye-poppingly colourful; some are darker and more atmospheric. All of them have a powerful message – “This is how I see the world” “This is how I feel about autism”.
Local artist Stephen Oliver and Councillor Mandy Garford kicked off their collaboration some months ago by having conversations about increasing awareness of autism in the community, and how this could be achieved in an innovative way. Stephen was interested in giving children with autism the opportunity to express themselves creatively through art. Mandy’s goal was to help make Dartford more autism-friendly; increasing understanding of the different ways that people on the autistic spectrum hear, see and feel the world around them.
The exhibition has already had a positive impact on both counts. Parents and teachers alike are thrilled at the children’s achievements. Having had the opportunity to take part in the project, in some cases parents have seen a visible increase in their child’s confidence and wellbeing. Children visiting the gallery are excited to see their work hung on the wall and they are invited to take a photograph if they wish.
Other visitors to the gallery are amazed at the standard of work and genuinely moved by the stories that the children are telling. The exhibition is certainly a talking point and is increasing people’s understanding of the complexity of autism.
The exhibition runs until Sunday 30th April. Do come along and see this wonderful display for yourself.